CENTENNIAL ANNIVERSARY OF HACKETTSTOWN STATE FISH HATCHERY
TO BE CELEBRATED AT OPEN HOUSE ON JUNE 2-3
(12/P59) TRENTON - The 100th anniversary of the Hackettstown State Fish Hatchery in Warren County will be celebrated with an open house for the public on June 2-3, with visitors to get a behind-the-scenes look at the storied facility that for the past century has raised a wide variety of species to benefit anglers across the state.
The open house, arranged by the Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, will feature a unique tour of the intricate fish hatching operations, while young anglers will have an opportunity for hands-on fishing experiences.
“A century of effective management of fish and wildlife resources is a remarkable achievement, one that has provided New Jersey anglers in every county with superb fishing opportunities for the past 100 years,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. “I encourage residents of all ages to come to the open house and take advantage of a unique opportunity to see the inner workings of this historic facility and its employees, who have served the state so well.”
Located in the heart of Hackettstown, the hatchery encompasses 240 acres, with 65 freshwater ponds, and features a state-of-the-art intensive fish culture facility. The site was chosen in 1911 for its ample supply of pure, cool spring water, and a running brook, plus convenient, nearby shipping opportunities.
Funded by a special state appropriation of $30,000, workers using horses and shovels began construction of the hatchery in May of 1912. Initial delays in construction, due to extensive bidding and contract procedures, were expedited by Governor Woodrow Wilson just four months before he was elected president.
With the red tape cleared, the main culture building and hatch house were completed in 1912, taking just a few months under the watchful eye of Charles O. Hayford, the hatchery’s first superintendent. Less than a year later, 86,700 brook trout fingerlings were planted in New Jersey streams. The first fish from the new hatchery were driven to stocking sites by Hayford himself.
Hatchery construction continued over several years with the addition of a superintendent’s house, a gate house, spring houses, a grinding house, an ice house, carpenter shop, second nursery building, raceways and ponds. Hundreds of feet of iron pipe also were laid to carry water from the springs and brook to the hatchery.
The original main hatchery building still stands today and was used for rearing of fish until 1999, when a new, 12,500-square foot intensive fish culture building was constructed for the purpose of raising more and larger cool-water and warm-water fish.
“Anyone who attends the open house will come away with an appreciation not only for the incredible history of the Hackettstown State Fish Hatchery but also for the outstanding natural resources and recreational opportunities New Jersey offers,” said Division of Fish and Wildlife Director Dave Chanda. “This represents New Jersey’s long-term commitment to professionally manage and conserve its fish and wildlife resources for the people of the Garden State.”
The Hackettstown Hatchery produced millions of trout for New Jersey anglers from 1913 to 1983. For decades, the hatchery also was a popular attraction for the public with more than 100,000 visitors touring the site annually in the 1950s and 1960s. The hatchery remained open to the public until 1984 when the newly completed nearby Pequest State Trout Hatchery took over the duties of raising brook, brown and rainbow trout for stocking statewide.
With Pequest online, the Hackettstown hatchery became entirely dedicated to raising warm- and cool-water species such as muskellunge, walleye, northern pike and channel catfish. Today, more than 2 million fish representing 15 different species are raised at the Hackettstown hatchery for stocking each year in more than 200 water bodies throughout the state.
“One hundred years ago, the Hackettstown Hatchery began to build what is now a truly awesome New Jersey trout fishery and during the last 25 years it has begun a new legacy of establishing equally fabulous warm and cold water species,” said Rich Thomas, State Council Chairman of NJ Trout Unlimited.
Throughout the anniversary weekend, children may fish at two newly renovated education ponds or at the “Kiddie Fishing Tank.” A giant mobile aquarium will display some of the state’s finest fish specimens and there will be bird walks, hatchery tours and archery, an outdoor flea market, historic displays in the original hatchery building, and entertainment by a bluegrass band.
Food can be purchased from vendors, but visitors are welcome to bring their own food. No dogs will be allowed at this event, since this is an operating fish hatchery with many open ponds and raceways.
Admission is free. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for both event days. Pre-registration will be required for some activities on the day of the event. For more information, including a complete list of programs, directions to the Hackettstown State Fish Hatchery and an extensive history of the hatchery itself visit http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/hacktown100.htm.